Coaching soccer in North Platte has truly become a family affair.

And now this week’s state tournament will be, too.

The Bulldog boys and girls — state qualifiers together for just the second time in school history — are coached by the brother-sister duo of Danny Whitney and Sarah Kaminski.

“It’s chaotic and it’s emotional,” Whitney said with a laugh, “but it’s a part our family’s experiences.”

The next couple of days at Morrison Stadium will be all that and more as Kaminski and the North Platte girls open tournament play Wednesday against Millard North. Just a little more than 24 hours later, Whitney’s Bulldog boys draw top-ranked Omaha South in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Quite the family trip to Omaha.

“It’s been an amazing last couple of weeks,” Kaminski said. “And the excitement just kind of keeps building.”

Both teams hosted district tournaments last week. On back-to-back days Kaminski’s girls won an overtime thriller and Whitney’s boys lost a 1-0 heartbreaker.

The two rode the roller coaster together.

“She shares and celebrates the success that we have and she’s hurt with us when things don’t go our way,” Whitney said.

Added Kaminski: “Danny’s probably my biggest supporter.”

Both played on state tournament teams for North Platte — Kaminski in 1994, Whitney in 1998 — and have led Bulldog squads there as coaches.

The two are branches on the Whitney coaching tree. Their dad, Jim, started the North Platte soccer program in 1990 after moving the family from Omaha to take an assistant principal job.

But he wasn’t even the first coach in the family. That distinction goes to Patty Whitney, Jim’s wife, who was Danny Whitney’s youth coach.

“And now it’s everyone around her that’s involved in it,” Whitney said. “In a lot of ways I think she has to handle the most stress and anxiety.”

The entire family dealt with plenty of both leading up to the release of the state tournament brackets over the weekend.

After losing in a Thursday district final, the Bulldog boys had to sweat out a wild card that wasn’t locked up until Lincoln Southwest won its district the following night.

Danny Whitney, the youngest of three Whitney kids, said he was out to dinner with his family Friday night, constantly refreshing Twitter for updates.

“I was being the guy on his phone kind of ignoring everyone too much,” he said. “There was a little celebration when we found out.”

It would pale in comparison to the type of party an upset or two this week would set off. Some of the state’s top programs stand in the way, though.

South is in its ninth straight state tournament, looking for its third title in that stretch. North Platte’s boys, making the program’s fifth appearance at state, are seeking their first win on the biggest stage.

As uphill of a battle as that may seem, the Bulldog girls may face any even tougher task. Millard North has won opening matches at state each of the past 12 years and has played for the title in eight of those seasons.

“We know what’s ahead. We know we’re going to be the underdog,” Whitney said, a notion that Kaminski agreed with. “We’re also both in a good place as programs where we’re not just content to be in a (district) final, not just content to be in the state tournament.

“We want to win the game.”

Whitney certainly knows where to go for a little advice. Jim Whitney has been Danny’s junior varsity coach the past five seasons. He’ll be on the sideline with his son on Thursday.

“He’s better than I was,” Jim Whitney said. “He’s brought the program back. The thing I really admire about him is his ability to communicate clearly to the kids and very positively motivate them. His saying is always be better today than we were yesterday.”

Under Danny Whitney the Bulldogs have put together four straight winning seasons. In the two years before he became coach North Platte was a combined 5-25.

Not to be outdone, Kaminski’s teams have won 11 or more games in six of the past seven seasons.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Jim Whitney said.

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